Penrith hooker James Segeyaro has rugby league in perspective after losing a best mate and his father within the past 18 months.

James Segeyaro has never played in an NRL preliminary final before, but at least the Penrith Panthers don’t need to worry about their star hooker keeping things in perspective.

At 23-years-of-age, Segeyaro has lost a lot.

His father passed away back in August, and last year Segeyaro farewelled one of his best friends to suicide.

Segeyaro will have both on his mind when he runs out onto ANZ Stadium on Saturday night to lead the Panthers into battle against Canterbury in a grand final qualifier.

Ultra competitive on the field, and mature beyond his years off it, Segeyaro has discovered earlier than most what’s important in life.

“I suppose (I will think of them) a fair bit,” said Segeyaro.

“I pray every night and ask for a blessing. (My dad) is up there with my mate watching down and I try not to think about it too much but my mate upstairs is always going to be there and I just have to do my best.”

Segeyaro was given a couple of weeks leave by the Panthers in late August to mourn the death of his dad, Iffysoe in Papua New Guinea.

It was a difficult time for he and his family, but one he adjusted to with a certain calm due to the acute grief he experienced last year when former North Queensland teammate Alex Elisala took his own life.

“That helped me a lot actually,” he said.

“The whole NRL have sent condolences, so I had more time to bury him and go up to New Guinea and spend time with my family at home.

“I got more time to settle and I was just waiting to come back and play footy with the boys and be around everyone.”

Segeyaro has gone from impact dummy-half off the bench to 80-minute game-breaker this season, and his ability to make yards up the middle of the field and strike from close-range has seen him emerge as one of the NRL’s most exciting talents.

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary says what you see is what you get with Segeyaro.

“His personality off the field is similar to what it is on – he’s very competitive,” Cleary said.

“He’s really stepped up in terms of leadership this year.

“I think he really feels he belongs. Probably since he started at hooker, after about round eight or nine, he thinks he belongs a bit more and his performances show that.

“When he plays well, we play well.”